You’ve mastered the steak – sear, bake, rest, serve – but now you want to grill steaks for a crowd, who want them cooked at least three different ways and want everyone to eat at the same time. This is how you do it…
The first thing I would suggest for grilling steaks for a crowd is be careful buying the steaks. Thicker is better, but is also more expensive. An inch and a half thick porterhouse could easily run $30. My preferred steak for a crowd is a small sized, but thick cut NY Strip otherwise known as a strip loin. With these steaks, I can get the thickness I want, but not break the bank. Here are the steaks I grilled at a recent tailgate party I had at my house.
The first step in the grilling steaks for a crowd is to set up the grill for two zone grilling with coals on one side and no coals on the other side. I want the side with the coals to be as hot as I can get it. A simple test to tell if the fire is hot enough is to hold your palm right over grill grates and if you can count to two or three Mississippi, the fire is not hot enough. One to two Mississippi is all you should be able to handle before pulling your hand back.
The only prep I have done on the steaks is to give them a good dusting of coarse salt, black and white pepper. I like to use both black and white pepper because they each hit different areas of the tongue and thus add depth to the flavor profile. But that’s totally up to personal preference.
The next step to grilling steaks for a crowd is to determine how everyone wants their steaks. I had eight people, of which two wanted theirs medium, four medium rare, and two rare. What I do from there is to group my steaks with the ones that are to be cooked to the most doneness closest to me and the rarest farthest. The two that are to be cooked to medium will go on the grill first:
I sear the NY strips for approximately two minutes before rotating the steaks 45 degrees and another two minutes to get those beautiful cross hatch grill marks, flip them over and repeat the process and then pull them over to the side with no heat:
The sear of the steaks does not actually sear or seal in the juices. It creates a flavor crust by browning the surface and caramelizing the proteins which is your ticket to flavortown. The way to seal the juices in comes at the end and doesn’t involve searing at all, quite the opposite actually.
Once off the heat, I close the lid to bake the NY strips. How long you close the lid depends on how well the grill holds the heat. My kettle holds really well and I would only close the lid for about four minutes, but this Char-Griller is drafty and I have to add to that time. One would ask, why not do them on the kettle to save time? Because I can’t put eight steaks on one side of a kettle without having some hang over onto the side with the coals and thus my method is shot and some of the steaks would be overdone or burnt.
After baking for about six minutes, the first two steaks are a delicious rare, but they aren’t done cooking. I opened the lid and put on all four NY strips that are to be cooked to medium rare:
You will notice a sauce on three of the steaks below:
I added an extra wrinkle to the mix as I glazed the NY strips with either Andria’s Steak Sauce or jerk sauce. Basically, once I seared one side and flipped it to sear the other I sauced the seared side and then sauced the other side once the second side was seared.
The steaks are seared on each side just like the first two and then placed over to the side with no coals and the lid shut. After approximately six minutes, I open the lid and now there are two steaks that are medium rare and four that are rare, but they aren’t done cooking.
How do I know they are medium rare and rare without cutting into them? That’s easy. It’s the thumb test.
One note. This isn’t chemistry or physics. It’s not an exact science. It’s grilling steaks for a crowd. One of the NY strips that was to be cooked to medium rare was much thicker than the other three steaks. It wasn’t as done as the other three after searing for four minutes on each side so I let that one sear a little longer:
How did I know it wasn’t done other than it’s sheer size? Again, the thumb test.
I put the four over by the first two steaks and closed the lid for another six minutes. At the end of the six minutes, I have two steaks that are medium rare and four that are rare. See how this is going?
Next, I put the last two steaks on and sear them on each side like the previous six:
Once they’re seared, I put the NY strips over to the side with no heat and close the lid. In six minutes, I have two steaks that are medium, four that are medium rare and two that are rare:
Now comes the sealing in the juices. DO NOT cut into the steaks for 3-4 minutes for steaks this size. Let them rest. Smaller steaks can rest for only 2-3 minutes, an entire prime rib like this one rested for more than 15 minutes.
Why? When a steak comes off the grill, the juices inside are in an excited state and moving a million miles an hour. Cutting into the steak will give the juices an escape route and they will do just that, all over your plate. A resting period will allow the juices to calm down and redistribute evenly throughout the meat which means every bite will be juicy and deicious.
That’s the process. Grilling steaks for a crowd is not all that hard. Once you learn how long it takes to bake a steak from rare to medium rare and then to medium on your grill, you can apply that time frame to steaks for a crowd.
If you have any questions about grilling steaks for a crowd, feel free to shoot me an email or leave it below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
If you are interested in other steak recipes we’ve done on the grill, click here.